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Too much Nittany Lyin'

Penn State student Kevin Berkon wears body paint that says "Reinstate Joe" outside of Beaver Stadium before an NCAA college football game against Nebraska Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A football game should not have been played Saturday.

A football game in the midst of a tragic child-sex scandal was a further defilement, a cruel reminder that football is king, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how many young lives have been ruined.

I have read and heard comments that Penn State’s game against Nebraska in State College, Pa., was a part of the healing process.

For whom?

For the very program that apparently looked away when former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly was violating little boys?

For all those misguided students who rioted after the school fired Joe Paterno, the beloved coach who didn’t do enough to prevent further atrocities, even though he is one of the most powerful people in Pennsylvania?

Sorry, no.

Don’t even try to say a football game helped speed up the healing for the victims. They might be empty shells masquerading as functioning human beings, but they’re not fools.

Out of respect for the eight people who apparently lost their childhood because of one man’s wickedness and one university’s willful neglect, Happy Valley should have been a ghost town Saturday. A cold wind should have been allowed to whistle through an empty stadium. Watching football players run up and down a field did nothing other than remind the world that 107,000 people will show up, lemming-like, to watch Penn State do what it does best.

Guilt by association

Try as it might, the school can’t suddenly separate itself from the horrors that reportedly took place on campus. A football game doesn’t do that, and to think that some fans wearing blue – the color associated with child-abuse prevention – does anything other than offer a photo opportunity is an insult to intelligence.

I keep coming back to the powerless here, the kids whom Sandusky lavished with gifts and attention, and then allegedly abused. I keep coming back to the showers in the Penn State football locker room, where Mike McQueary, then a 28-year-old graduate assistant, allegedly saw Sandusky raping what appeared to be a 10-year-old boy, according to grand jury testimony. I keep coming back to the idea that McQueary and Paterno and the school president and Lord knows who else failed to speak loud enough to make Sandusky stop hurting more kids.

With knowledge of that, you played a football game a short distance from where the rape allegedly took place?

If Penn State wanted to tell those victims that it really did care about them, it would have forfeited the game. That would be considered the ultimate sacrifice in State College. To many of us, it would be considered common decency.

I don’t care about how much hard work the football team devoted to this season.

I don’t care about the thousands of Penn State fans who had nothing to do with the scandal, and I don’t buy the notion that they should be able to watch their Nittany Lions as a way to grieve.

I care about the boys whose lives were damaged, as do most people with feelings.

Right back where they started

To play Saturday’s game meant, once again, that the institution was more important that the victims. That’s how this whole thing got started. We’ve seen it over and over again: People will do just about anything to protect the reputation of a monolithic institution. The rioters who overturned a TV news van last week because they were unhappy with media coverage of the scandal were reminiscent of Catholic Church officials who blamed the media for exaggerating the clergy child-abuse scandal.

On Saturday, family and friends of Penn State players wore white to show support for Paterno. It’s that kind of blindness that allows institutions to rumble forward and trample the truth.

The outpouring of support for Paterno has been nothing short of disgusting. The gutless Big Ten coaches who refused to speak out when asked for comment about the child-sex scandal – shame on them. Shame on them for choosing to talk about Paterno’s positive legacy, as if that has any bearing on what’s happening now.

And shame on those coaches and others who keep hiding behind the concept of due process. Yes, everybody deserves due process in a courtroom. But speaking out publicly against evil has nothing to do with due process. It has to do with character.

I keep thinking about dementors, the creatures in “Harry Potter” that suck the soul right out of victims, leaving them frozen and empty. That’s what Jerry Sandusky is, a dementor. How could football, a kid’s game, have been played with Sandusky’s wickedness still hanging in the air?

Penn State lost 17-14. The athletic program’s slogan is “Success with Honor.” On a cool day in State College, there was neither.